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The Humble Burger - What's Your Fave?

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The recent favourite sandwich thread got me thinking about the hundreds (thousands?!) of variations on the simple burger. Look at all the elements we have to play with, from the inside out:

Meat - buy it ground, or grind your own? Blade, chuck, sirloin? Do you add pork or poultry?
And how do you cook - rare or well done? Fried or grilled? Charred or not? Do you add spices before cooking (garlic, pepper, salt, or ??)?

Cheese - Yes or no? Grated or sliced? Cheddar, provolone, swiss, mozzarella, or (gasp) "wrap"?

Tomato - Sliced or chopped? And since in Toronto, good fresh tomatoes will be a memory until next June, ketchup often fills in for half the year.

Onion - Raw or cooked? Bermuda, Spanish, Vidalia? If cooked - grilled or sauteed? Butter or olive oil? If raw - sliced or chopped?

Lettuce - What type? Leaves or chopped? And is the Quebec addition of a sweet coleslaw unique to La Belle province, or is it done elsewhere?

Other veg/fruit - what else? Avocado? Pineapple? Roasted peppers? Or....?

Pickles - sweet or dill?Long slices or chips?

Condiments - Mustard (yellow, brown, dijon, grainy, ??), relish (pickle, zucchini, other?), other sauces (BBQ, ketchup, mayo), horseradish, hot sauce??

Finally - the bun. Do you like the soft, chewy "wonder" style bun served at most FF places, or do you prefer something crustier, like a kaiser or a Calabrese roll? Plain or toasted or put face down on the griddle/fry pan?

I'm sure I've forgotten many different toppings (geez, chili just came to me - how could I have forgotten that?!), so clue me in - I'd be delighted to hear some new ideas!

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  1. Homemade: High quality fatty ground beef (about 75 to 80% lean). Mash out a huge patty by hand. Let it warm to room temperature. Build a hot hot fire with dry hickory and white oak. When the wood is down to white hot coals, lay a grid over it and cook the burger fast on both sides (should be charred a little, but medium). Bun, a toasted chewy pizza-crust style. Sliced onion (Vidalia or mild Spanish), home-grown tomato, good leaf lettuce, bread and butter pickle, good slice of Colby starting to melt. Healthy dollop of Marzetti's slaw dressing.

    Stand back.

    1. homemade

      ground chuck from my butcher shop seasoned with pepper, terryaki, and garlic powder , Cooked somewhere between rare and medium rare over lump charcoal & wood(hickory or mesquite) on my grill.

      Served on a toasted Kaiser roll witha slice of Swiss or mozzarella, bacon, mayo, ketchup, dill pickle slices, a fried egg, romaine lettuce leaf, raw red onion, avocado, and tomato.

      1. I saw this on a Sara Moulton show...some chef went around the country tasting burgers and this was his favorite simple burger. Fatty ground beef (75%?) thrown into a cast iron skillet (not shaped, mind you, free form) salt and peppered. Flatten with spatula. Before you flip, place a few rounds of sliced yellow onion, so they grill into the otherside. Salt and pepper the other side. Take an untoasted hamburger bun and spread jarred pimento cheese on both sides. Add burger and eat. Sounded gross...but had to give it a shot. Soooo good. And cheap and simple. Bon Apetit.

        1. Sunshine Southwest veg burger!

          1. Swear to heaven, the best burger I've ever had was a preformed packaged Steakburger from Trader Joe's, cooked by me in my iron grill pan and served on a barely-toasted ciabatta bun, also from TJ's. I expected good; I did not expect transcendental. I did take care to season the patties an hour before I cooked them, and let them sit out for an hour with a towel draped over to keep the bugs off. I do not know the exact cuts used in these, but if I ate or cooked burgers more often I would be hard-pressed to try anything else.

            As I recall, the burger had a slice of sharp cheddar on it, and mine was dressed with lettuce, onion, wasabi mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, the last two also being TJ's items.